UR Rao, internationally-renowned scientist and former Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) chief, passed away at his Bengaluru residence at about 2:30 am on Monday after prolonged illness. The 85-year-old Rao was hospitalised earlier this year with a heart ailment.
The former ISRO chief was serving as the chairman of the governing council of the physical research laboratory and the chancellor of the Indian Institute of Science and Technology at Thiruvananthapuram.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi expressed grief over Professor Rao's demise. He took to Twitter and asserted that Rao's contribution to India's space programme will never be forgotten.
Saddened by demise of renowned scientist, Professor UR Rao. His remarkable contribution to India's space programme will never be forgotten.— Narendra Modi (@narendramodi) July 24, 2017
Udupi Ramachandra Rao, popularly known as UR Rao, was born in Adampur village in Udupi on March 10, 1932. After graduation, Rao completed his Ph.D at Physical Research Laboratory, Ahmedabad under the guidance of Dr. Vikram Sarabhai.
Rao has been part of several ISRO projects and has won 10 international and several national awards. After Satish Dhawan, he served as the chairman of Isro for about 10 years between 1984-1994.
He played a key role in the launch of India’s first satellite Aryabhatta, and was also the brain behind what science needs to be done using Chandrayaan-1 and Mangalyaan.
In January this year, Professor Rao was conferred with the prestigious Padma Vibhushan award. Interestingly, Rao had then said, “I thought I will get this (Padma Vibhushan) posthumously.”
Rao is also remembered for his tenure at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). In May 2016, Rao became the first Indian to be given the 'Hall of Fame' award by the International Astronautical Federation (IAF).
Also, he has published more than 350 scientific and technical papers covering cosmic rays, interplanetary physics, high energy astronomy, space applications and satellite and rocket technology and authored many books.